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Outdoor Insights Domus Ventures

Horst Heinrichs, Chairman Dave Hill, manager, U.S. operations

Q What's working now? Why?
     We've seen interest across the board in our products. The most excitement is coming from our motion pieces and our marine-grade vinyl, which brings the indoor look outside. We're also are getting more acceptance for our sculptured, multifunctional sun protective canopy pieces.

     Buyers realize that their stores can't look like everyone else down the street. A chair has to have style and function; it has to be decisively different from what the big boxes are carrying. If you're going to compete in the mid- to upper-price range, you have to distinguish yourself.

     What we have in this market is actually the same as we have in Europe. Those people who have started to be a little different are having overwhelming success. That's easily proven by what we're selling through the Internet versus what the stores are buying. The consumer will buy an avant garde, fashion piece online or from a catalog without ever having sat on it.

     Dealers say they've got to sit on it and touch it, but I realize the consumer is ready to buy it.

Q What product has been your best seller? Why?
     Without a doubt the Luxor, which is our marine vinyl. It incorporates shade and movement. Another thing people are really looking for is low-maintenance.

Q What new product do you expect to become a best seller?
     Our new COOOL sofa, loveseat and coffee table is destined to be a huge hit in the upper end marketplace as well in contract and hospitality markets. The scale, exquisite design and detail, the comfort and the fact that it is virtually maintenance free make it irresistible.

     This is a new collection that was developed due to the strength and worldwide acceptance of the Luxor Collection Domus Ventures introduced last year. Coool, like Luxor, utilizes marine grade vinyl in tight seats and backs. The vinyl has the hand of top grain leather and is both UV resistant and UV reflective which prevents excessive heat buildup.

     Frames are powder-coated welded aluminum, hand woven with 100% virgin HDPE resin wicker. The sofa is well over 8 feet in length and is 42" deep providing unparalleled comfort.

Q What have you learned that you wish you had known earlier?
     Many things that have happened here, we had experienced already in Europe. So far, everything that has happened is not a surprise. We are supplying to a world market, not to the U.S. market only. They are much more conservative here. Reaction time goes fast in Europe and extremely fast in Asia. In Asia, they observe a situation a week and then they are ready to make a decision. In Europe, it takes much longer than Asia, but it's still faster than the United States.

Q Where do you see opportunity for future growth?
     The dealers we do a container business with are growing, their numbers are growing and the volume of business we do with them is growing.

     There still is a reluctance, even from the stores who know we have a great product at a great value and great quality, but instead of buying a container, they want to buy a couple of pieces out of the warehouse. A 20-foot container is not such an investment, and they make a tremendous margin.

Q If you could send a message to retailers to help them strengthen their business, what would it be?
     The dealers who decided to be different were actually surprised by their own success. They were amazed how it is moving. And it was exactly that way in other countries before.

      This isn't a trial for us. It's an extension of the world market that lags behind so we have the experience of Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Australia. We are the New World so we tend adapt late, but there is definitely a change in attitude and more acceptance of contemporary and modern design. I think there's a huge difference between modern and contemporary. We have a few remnant transitional groups, but for the most part we're fashion-forward. We take a lot of clues from the indoor market. The success of leather and motion are just two examples, also the combination of materials. We're applying those concepts to the outdoor market.

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